In a world where catchy beats and half-thought-out lyrics get the most radio play, I have to take a moment to thank artists like Chance The Rapper, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar for their perfectionist personalities and determination to keep hip-hop alive. With that being said, let’s talk about Lamar’s latest album, “Damn.”
The album begins with the song “Blood,” as a short intro to the album’s contents. The first song does not sound like a song, but instead a story placed to music. The track ends with a sound bite from Fox News personalities Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle discussing Lamar’s 2016 Grammy Awards performance. This small addition to the start of the album was when I knew I would enjoy it.
Lamar’s blatant disregard for how news outlets, especially Fox, view his work adds to his trend of expressing his views through his music. Throughout the album he continues to call out the network for their statements against hip-hop, his artistic “f*ck you” to their comments.
Although each song on the album has a different sound to it, their messages are relatively similar throughout. Lamar continues to self-reflect on his Compton upbringing and many ideals that are prominent in the world of hip-hop today.
His song “Fear” contains this very self-evaluating nature to it. The song features a series of threats that are commonly told to many young African-American men growing up. These threats outline how we raise these boys to grow up to be men; we teach them through fear. Lamar raps, “If I could smoke fear away/ I’d roll that motherf*cker up.”
The song continues with a similar list, but this time of different ways Lamar could die. All the ways he names are familiar deaths of African-American men, including walking home from a candy story (Trayvon Martin). In this track, Lamar outlines the fear of being an African-American male in the United States, whether it’s the fear you’re taught by family, the streets, gangs or police.
Those who know the track list will realize I am going out of order here, but I feel it is only appropriate to bring up “DNA.”
This track has a very repetitive sound to it that I can appreciate. Lamar raps about the things he values most, including loyalty and royalty. Both are pieces of himself that he affirms are in his DNA. This track features another sound bite from Fox News – where the personalities state that hip-hop is the problem with young African-Americans and is the cause of the racism taking place in the country. His repetition of the aspects he values – mostly written over this sound bite – serves as his affirmation to the things hip-hop has taught him and his disregard for Fox’s understanding of the culture.
Other than the single “Humble,” my favorite song on the album hands down is “Love.” In this ballad, Lamar picks up a more pop-singsong sound over his hard rap that we are accustomed to. The drastic change is one I was originally wary of, but immediately loved as I played it over and over again. Out of all of the songs off the album, “Love” may be the most simplistic in lyrics, but it is a welcomed calm.
“Damn,” is a self-reflective album that expresses what Kendrick Lamar does best: scream the truth. He has no fears when it comes to writing truth in his lyrics and critiquing himself along the way.